entrepreneur


Hi Friends!

Disclaimer right up front: I’m a complete CHOCOHOLIC, DOG LOVER and CRAFT BREWING FAN. That being said, let me share a few exciting career transition stories that include three of my favorite things:  chocolate, dogs and beer (not always in that order).

First, I want to share the very recent launch of a new chocolate-making business, The Art of Chocolate. Vocationer alums, Chris and Darcie Farrow, of Monument (between Denver and Colorado Springs), Colorado just opened their doors!  Chris had his VocationVacation career mentorship with our phenomenal mentor, Will Gustwiller, at Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego in May, 2010 and Darcie had her VocationVacation career mentorship with the venerable Jack & Iva Elmer at Jaciva’s in Portland, Oregon in July, 2010.  Well, Chris and Darcie haven’t wasted ANY time in making their dreams a reality and opened The Art of Chocolate just this month.  Congratulations to the Farrows!

Second, I want to share a couple of wonderful articles that recently appeared on AOL.com about two past clients of ours.

Toni Cory went from being a laid-off Motorola employee to a successful businesswoman.  She launched her business, Almost Home Dog Daycare, after her VocationVacation career mentorship under the tutelage of Dawn Walton at Dog Zone Dog Daycare in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Read more about Toni’s complete career change.

And…

Mark Peffers is a grocery store department manager who is in process of becoming a full-time brew master after having his career mentorship with our fantastic mentor, Darren Currier, at The Gilded Otter back in 2008.  Mark is now working part-time as a brew master and is off to the University of California-Davis this upcoming January to study the art and craft of brewing from one of the finest institutions in the United States (the other beer making institution we often recommend to people is the Siebel Institute in Chicago).  Read more about Mark’s career transition.

If Darcie, Chris, Toni and Mark can do it, so can you!

How do YOU plan to take your first step in trying out a new career?

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I enjoy inviting people to guest blog from time to time.  It adds an extra bit of content “flavor” to things, I think.  I love to get their thoughts…their take on things related to career transition and reinvention….and I love to be challenged myself a bit.  And that’s just what Martha Wagner did:  She challenged me as you’ll read below.  She adds some real flavor to the blog — both in a literary sense and….a culinary sense!

Introducing Martha Wagner.

Cheers!
Brian

It’s hard for me to imagine Brian Kurth sitting in an office cubicle or even behind a big desk in his former corporate life in Chicago. In a recent chat at one of his favorite Portland coffee shops, he looked relaxed, like an entrepreneur affected by, but not crushed by, the current economic times.

I’d recently read Brian’s book, Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love, and found it to be an innovative “how-to” guide to creating your own career mentorship.  But when I went to the VocationVacations website, I thought there were some possible gaps in the list of career test-drive experiences, so I called him and we set up a time to meet. He was happy to listen, but before long he was twisting my arm into writing a guest blog about the gaps I detected in his list of career paths. He said that his blog readers might provide valuable feedback about whether I was onto something.

What expertise do I have? Well, I’ve been following local and national stories about food and farming for 30 years. I am resuming an earlier freelance writing career, now focusing on food and local farming. I devour foodie blogs and newsletters from local and national groups such as Slow Food, Friends of Family Farmers and the Organic Consumers Association. I go to meetings of my county’s Food Policy Council. I’ve been shopping at Portland’s many local farmers markets for years, and more recently have witnessed the sprouting of new home gardens and the arrival of backyard chickens all over the city.

Even though Brian has a number of food-related careers on his VocationVacations list—including baker, brew master, chef, chocolatier, cheese maker, farmer, ice cream maker, restaurateur, winemaker and wine retailer (he’s got a passion for that business)—there are other career paths in food and farming that I think people are eager to explore. Just one example: Camas Davis, a 30-something Portland-based food writer and chef I recently interviewed for a story, wanted to learn about what she calls “the dying art of the butcher shop” and through a friend of a cooking teacher she knows managed to set up a summer internship with a family of farmers and butchers in southwest France. The experience gave her the confidence to start the Portland Meat Collective, a venture in which she and other chefs are teaching a range of butchering skills to restaurant and home cooks.

When the First Family put in an organic kitchen garden at the White House it was one very visible indication of growing interest in farming and in organics. In the Northwest, the number of organic farms growing vegetables, specialty grains and beans, and garden starts is increasing. Farmers markets and natural food stores are selling meat from small farms that are practicing sustainable animal husbandry. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms are providing a way for eaters to connect with farmers and farmers to sell direct to the public. Farmers markets, grocery stores, even food banks and in Portland, the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, are sponsoring food-related classes these days focused on topics as diverse as eating economically, canning and preserving, raising backyard chickens and almost-vegetarian cooking.

So where am I heading with all of this and how does it relate to VocationVacations?  As I watch new food and farm related businesses open, I see a need for more VocationVacation mentorship choices across the country—for careers such as butcher, organic and/or CSA farmer, cooking instructor, personal chef and garden designer (vegetable gardens and mixed gardens). In the world of baking, organic, vegan and gluten-free baking are up-and-coming specialties. Food cart businesses—from waffles to tamales to barbecue—are one of the hottest new restaurant trends. I just met a first-time food cart owner in Portland, newly transplanted from Chicago and loving his new livelihood. VocationVacations, I suggest, should make it easier for people like him to test the waters of new careers related to food and farming.

So now I leave it to you, dear readers. Let Brian know if you think he should expand the VocationVacations list. Do you have some ideas of your own for him?

Best!

Martha Wagner

Martha Wagner arrived in Portland in the late 80s, following a circuitous path from the Midwest to Connecticut, England, New Zealand, Northern California and Eugene, Oregon. She has written about food and health, from tofu to walking shoes, for numerous magazines and newspapers. In her “day job” (www.marthawagner.com) she edits and proofreads countless words for colleges, nonprofits and businesses. She lives at a 3.7 acre urban co-housing community where her neighbors include 37 chickens.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing yet another career transition client fulfill on their dream of creating or finding their dream job.

Annemarie Spitznagle was a pharmaceutical sales executive who simply lost the passion for “schlepping” legal drugs.  Instead, she wanted to pursue her true passion:  organic foods including….sweets!

Annemarie was well down the path of writing her business plan for an organic bakery prior to taking her Baker VocationVacation at The Pink Cupcake in Mt. Vernon, OH with mentors, Beth Murdock and Sommer Meade.  She felt she needed the hands-on mentorship in addition to her coursework at the University of Wisconsin Center for Entrepreneurship.  Combining class time with face-to-face mentorship is a key to success.

Fast forward:  In less than six months from taking her VocationVacation career mentorship, Annemarie opened her amazing, new organic bakery, Bloom Bake Shop, in Middleton, Wisconsin, a suburb of Madison.

I asked Annemarie to share her advice and words of wisdom to those who think they may want to become a baker or become a bakery owner.  Much of her sage advice can be applied to just about any other career transition, however.  Embarking upon the path of career change and reinvention is not for the faint of heart.  But it’s SO worth facing the struggle and obstacles to get to the point of work-life fulfillment as Annemarie has.

Congratulations, Annemarie!  So very proud of you….and all our other career transition clients who have created change and reinvented themselves.  I can’t wait to enjoy one of your delish organic cupcakes!

Here are Annemarie’s advice and words of wisdom:

  • I’d bank sleep.  You will work harder then you ever knew possible and then you’ll work some more
  • I’d order some thicker skin, there are always more positives then negatives, but as perfectionists we forever focus on the one negative, like a tiny splinter, when the rest of the body is perfectly healthy and strong
  • I’d remind myself to step back periodically that first opening weekend and pat myself on the back and tell myself, “You did it!”
  • I commend myself for having for having built amazing friendships, people that stayed up until the wee hours helping me finish the little details, friends that got up and baked with me from 4:30-8am and then went right on to their “real job”
  • I’d remarry my husband again. He has always been a fan, but gosh, he is my number one cheerleader and source of strength, everyday telling me how proud he is of me. You need that
  • I’d remind my mother how great she was for flying up at a moment’s notice TWICE to keep my home-front running because we didn’t expect to take off so quickly with demand
  • I’d tattoo my mantra between my eyes: “Remember it’s just cake!”  It is so easy to get caught up and take it all too seriously.

What I know now:

  • I am stronger then I ever thought I was..and braver
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • No matter how much you plan, how great your business plan is,  you will still miss some details. And it will be okay. You will survive
  • If you do make mistakes, fix them, if it bothered someone, apologize and then swallow your pride and keep your chin up
  • Remind yourself when you are exhausted that this is your passion; this is your dream
  • Find a theme song, bring it to work and play it when you are feeling stressed, tired, or just want to break out dance because you feel HAPPY because, darn it, you are living your dream!

Key strengths that kept me going:

  • A solid business plan that I shared with numerous critical professionals to ensure it was ripped apart appropriately
  • Good legal counsel to protect my investment
  • An amazing mentor that believed in me, my idea and never tired of all of my questions and concerns
  • A talented graphic designer who got my vision in an instant so I could effectively communicate my brand to the public
  • Working with a commercial realtor to ensure I was placing myself in my appropriate demographic and access was optimal
  • Created a delicious product
  • Tested my product with a constructive audience of strangers who owed me nothing and then tested it again!!  And again!!
  • Not being intimidated by constructive criticism
  • If you haven’t worked in the type of bakery you want to own, go do it or apprentice in one.  Experience first-hand the fun, the stress and the reality of it all.

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brian-Kurth/202325023648?ref=ts
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/briankurth
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/BrianKurth
Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love: www.amazon.com

This is a quick blog today since it’s a wild and crazy Friday but I want to share this amazing career change story of a Brian Kurth + Company career coaching client of mine, Jeff Harvey, in Buffalo, NY.

I am so impressed and proud of Jeff.  Jeff went from being a stock broker to following his passions to become an angel investor in a brand new pharma company working on a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, Rose Pharmaceuticals.

Jeff’s toddler grandson has MD.  Jeff simply could not sit by the sidelines and watch him struggle without doing something tangible in the fight for the cure.  He decided to throw his time and dollars into research.

Way to go, Jeff!

Make sure you view the video that the NBC affiliate in Buffalo did on Jeff and Rose Pharmaceuticals and the research it’s doing on muscular dystrophy with, yes, tarantula venom!  For real.

This is why I do what I do.  These types of stories give me goose bumps — in a great way.  People creating real, tangible change.  Not only for themselves but for others as well.

WATCH JEFF’S STORY ON BUFFALO’S NBC AFFILIATE – CLICK HERE

Cheers,

Brian

www.briankurth.com

www.vocationvacations.com

When I was making my 2-3 hour roundtrip commute back in my Chicago days in 1999, I would daydream about what I would rather do for a living.  I was “Dilbert” working as a product manager in a cubical for the phone company at the time.  But I dreamed of testing out other careers:  Tour guide…wine sales/marketing….and….dog training.

I gave dog training a try by creating my own dog training mentorship while still living in Chicago in late 2001.  It was the first-ever VocationVacation in a sense.  I love dogs and have to say that if it weren’t for my love of VocationVacations and working with my clients with Brian Kurth + Company, I probably would let my career go to the dogs and become a dog trainer.  And I sure will have some great mentors to help me become a dog trainer if I were to ever go down that path.  One is our newest mentor, Niki Trudge, of The DogSmith in Bonifay, Florida, located between Pensacola and Panama City.

Niki Tudge grew up in England and went on to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.   For 15 years, she  managed hotels in exotic and exciting locations.   But while she was building her career, Niki was looking for opportunities to follow her passion for animals.  “Since I traveled so much in my job, I couldn’t have my own pet, so I looked for other opportunities to get involved with animals,” says Niki.

Wherever Niki worked, she always became active rehabilitating abandoned and abused animals. Then, while in Africa, she began developing her skills as a family pet dog trainer working with the local police K9 unit.  When her job took her to Hawaii, Niki decided to earn her certification as a dog behaviorist, pet dog trainer, veterinarian assistant and pet groomer.  Although her position as manager of a five-star hotel was demanding, Niki found the time to follow her passion and, with a partner, opened Hawaii Dog Training Academy which thrived for two years until another move took her to Florida.

This move caused Niki to really evaluate what it was she wanted to do.  “I was tired of working in the corporate life,” she explains.  She had spent her career managing hotel staff and had gained valuable experience in business and training. Now it was time to take that experience and apply it to a new career – time to follow her passion to establish a dog training and pet care company that would completely redefine people’s relationship with their dogs.

Niki and her husband Rick Ingram bought a farm in Bonifay, Florida, and founded The DogSmith in 2004.  Initially, they provided dog training with a mantra of “do no harm” based on scientific learning principles and positive reinforcement.  “We began working with the local Humane Society and became part of the community helping to alleviate the pressure on the rescue organization,” shares Niki.

Their innovative training program was well received, and soon clients started asking about other services for their dogs.  Niki and Rick decided to go beyond training and provide a holistic approach to helping clients care for their dogs by adding dog walking and sitting services.” We have become a one-stop shop for taking care of your dog,” Niki says.

Their business model has been successful, and they now offer franchises.  “We have a very strict screening process for potential franchisees.  Their philosophies have to align with our efforts on behalf of dogs and their owners,” Niki explains.  Franchise owners also have to commit to being involved in canine rescue efforts by contributing eight hours a month providing workshops and educational seminars. Today, with three franchises in Florida, one in Illinois and one in Pennsylvania, The DogSmith stands alone as the only national franchise that offers both positive, learning-theory based dog training services coupled with professional pet-sitting and dog-walking services.

Niki’s initial advice for someone wanting to get into the business of dog training/walking, sitting? “Do your research on training philosophies; recognize that this is a business like any business and requires attention to marketing, business operations and finances; understand that good personal service and building good customer relationships is the key to success.” And, of course, you have to love dogs.

Niki and her staff are committed to providing quality, competent, affordable services that benefit the dog and its owner.  Seven million pets a year are euthanized because their owners don’t know how to take care of them and respond to their needs.  The DogSmith is doing everything it can to reduce that number.

Ready to make a career change and become a Dog Trainer and/or Pet Sitter like Niki?  Learn more about this great new VocationVacation.

I’ll be back in coming days with some great new career transition stories.  I love seeing and hearing the amazing career transition success that people have made — EVEN in this troubling economy.

So I disclosed to you all last week that I am 15 pounds overweight right now and it’s really bugging me.  I went to a “Dead Celebrity” Halloween party on Saturday night.  It was great seeing Chris Farley, Jesus, Hunter Thompson, Keiko the Killer Whale and Michael Jackson all at one party — and even Liz Taylor showed up with a “Coming Soon” sign.  Evil, I know.  Well, I went as a not-as-good-looking-and-a-bit-overweight Heath Ledger from Brokeback Mountain, sporting my favorite cowboy hat and my fave Frye boots.  I actually was good and did not indulge in the cookies and candy…but I did have a few calorie-counting beers and I am always a sucker for a big bowl of crunchy cheetos (hey, I’m from Wisconsin originally — real cheese or totally fake cheese are always winners in my book).

So, while crunching down my cheetos and throwing back a beer, I thought, “Hmmm, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to yoga.  I should try it again as a new form of workout and balance my eating habits.  Crunch.  Swig.  Crunch.”

I like yoga.  But I don’t have it “down” quite yet.  It takes time.  And my partner, The Wadester, is getting into it more and more as well.  It’s something that we should do together since we both work so much.  But there are some folks who REALLY get into yoga — and make it part of their lives.  For example, our former vocationer alum, Veronica Cruz.

For 15 years, Veronica of San Jose, California, had a successful career as an IT consultant managing projects around the world. However, the landscape of the consulting business was changing, and Veronica found she just was not inspired by her work.  She wanted to feel passionate about what she was doing.

As a child growing up in Katmandu, Nepal, Veronica had been introduced to the practice of yoga.  Years later she pursued yoga again, and her love for the practice was rekindled.  She began to think about how she could turn her passion for yoga into a career.  “However, I realized it was one thing to be passionate about something, and another thing to turn it into a business,” says Veronica.

In April 2008, Veronica signed up to take a VocationVacation with mentor Dean Mahan, owner of Vida Yoga in Austin, Texas.   “Dean shared with me the good, the bad and the hard realities of the business,” explains Veronica.  “By walking in Dean’s shoes I was able to clarify my future direction and understand whether my passion could be translated into a life’s work.”

Veronica returned to San Jose, completed the consulting project she was working on and made it her last. Dean’s parting advice to Veronica had been, “Share your light and keep your vision full of light. Journey to your heart and share from there.” And that was just what Veronica did.  She threw her heart and soul into a plan to open her own yoga studio. She developed a business and marketing plan and earned certification by the Yoga Alliance.

A little less than a year later, Veronica opened Downtown Yoga Shala (www.downtownyogashala.com) in San Jose. “It was a leap of faith, but one done with my eyes wide open,” says Veronica.  Veronica’s advice to someone looking to follow their passion? “Keep an open mind, enjoy the journey and allow your heart to guide your path.”

Great advice for anyone considering a career (and life) transition.  If you are currently laid off, I’d also encourage you to consider this time as an opportunity.  Perhaps a yoga studio (or whatever drives your passion) has YOUR name on it?

Now, I’m off to sign-up for the next yoga class at the gym here in Portland.

Please feel free to send along “nudge” blog comments, Tweets, LinkedIn notes, etc. to me to make sure I do it.  Hold me to it so I can go as a FIT Heath Ledger next year!

Cheers,
Brian

Brian Kurth + Company Career Consulting/Coaching

VocationVacations career mentorship experiences

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/briankurth
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/BrianKurth
Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love: www.amazon.com

So I knew I had gained a few pounds this past year but it really hit home when the October issue of Entrepreneur Magazine came out.

Entrepreneur’s article entitled the “The 40-Year Old Intern” is about VocationVacations….and there I am at 43 years old….at One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn (one of our  phenomenal baker mentors)….lookin’ a bit pudgy.  It looks like I’ve spent a bit too much time eating the delish goodies at One Girl!  But, I have to tell you, there are two things in life I’m not going to give up — cookies and red wine.  So, hence, I have reinvigorated my gym attendance.  AND, I am now bringing on at least one gym owner/personal trainer mentor for VocationVacations in coming weeks.

But I digress.  The point of the Entrepreneur Magazine article is that a significant career transition CAN occur.  Please be inspired by how Paul Holje made the switch from being an architect to owning his own bread bakery, Dakota Harvest, in Grand Forks, North Dakota….and has even opened his second bakery!

As if the great Entrepreneur Magazine article wasn’t enough this past month, the fab folks over at MORE Magazine also did a wonderful story entitled “5 Tips To Reinvent Your Career” including vocationer alum Sue Burton’s story of how she made a radical shift in her career to create a stronger work/life balance.  Sue’s VocationVacations mentor was comedian Dan Nainan in New York.  After her stellar mentorship from Dan, she went from being a marketing executive for Fidelity Investments in Boston to being a corporate humorist and stand-up comedian.  For real!  I’m so proud of Sue for grabbing a mitt and getting in the game of life and loving every minute of it.

So thanks to Entrepreneur and to More Magazine….and thanks to Self Magazine for including us in their November issue!  Check it out.

I love what I do:  Helping people make career and life change, transition and reinvention.  Really good stuff.  Now, to celebrate, I’m going to eat a cookie….and hit the gym.

What’s YOUR dream career?  Go make it happen….

Cheers!
Brian Kurth

Career Transition Expert with Brian Kurth + Company

Career Mentorship Guru with VocationVacations

Author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job:  A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love – Hachette, 2008

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